Senators Richard Pan and Ben Allen to Introduce Legislation to End California’s Vaccine Exemption Loophole

Senator Ben Allen announcing legislation to close the vaccine exemption loophole, jointly authored with Dr. Richard Pan., with concerned parents at a press conference in the State Capitol, February 4, 2015

SACRAMENTO – Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and Senator representing Sacramento and Senator Ben Allen, the former Board President of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District will introduce legislation that will repeal the personal belief exemption that currently allows parents to effectively opt their child out of vaccines in our schools. 

“As a pediatrician, I’ve been worried about the anti-vaccination trend for a long time,” said Dr. Richard Pan, a State Senator representing Sacramento. “I’ve personally witnessed the suffering caused by these preventable diseases and I am very grateful to the many parents that are now speaking up and letting us know that our current laws don’t protect their kids.”

“The high number of unvaccinated students is jeopardizing public health not only in schools but in the broader community.  We need to take steps to keep our schools safe and our students healthy,” said Senator Ben Allen.

“Here in California, we are currently suffering from yet another epidemic of whooping cough, and now an outbreak of measles – both are completely preventable,” said Leah Russin a mother from Palo Alto. “My husband and I worry our son will get sick if we put him in daycare – many day cares in my area have vaccination rates well below what’s necessary to protect the community.”

Under California’s personal belief exemption, a parent may choose to opt their child out of school vaccine requirements that bi-partisan legislative majorities passed to protect students. Under a measure authored by Dr. Pan in 2012, parents who exempt a child from school vaccinations must first talk with a licensed health care practitioner about the impacts to their child and community. In the first year the state law was implemented, 20 percent fewer parents used the personal belief exemption.  However, in many communities across the state, over 10 percent of parents are using California’s personal belief exemption.

When a contagion spreads in a community with immunization rates below 90 percent, the protection provided by ‘'herd immunity’ can be at risk. This means many people are at risk of becoming infected including people who cannot be immunized, including infants, chemotherapy patients and those with HIV or other conditions;

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez who represents San Diego and has signed on as an early co-author of the measure said, “As a mother, I know the decisions we make about our children's healthcare are deeply personal.  And, while I respect that fundamental right to make medical decisions for your own family, a parent's decision to ignore science and medical facts puts other children at risk. We as a state can’t condone that.”

If this legislation is passed, California will join thirty-two other states that don’t allow parents to opt out of vaccination requirements using a personal belief exemption.